The Host

Basse-Yutz Flagon | Halstatt Burial at Eberdingen-Hochdorf | Vix Krater

Preparation for the funerary banquet was an important part of funerary ritual.   The materials necessary for holding this feast were placed in some of the earliest Celtic graves.  As has been the case with most of the grave goods included in this exhibition, they are associated primarily with the graves of a high-ranking official.  It has been suggested that the original impetus for the feast was almost certainly from the Mediterranean.

"We may presume that toward the year 700 BC, this wealthy and powerful man adopted the Mediterranean custom of a funeral feast, a banquet accompanied by an intoxicating drink, usually of wine, which must have been imported." (Mohen, 104)

The inclusion of these banqueting implements remains an important aspect of the grave up and into the 1c BCE although notable changes do occur.  One such change being the kind of drink ěservedî at the feast.  For instance, in the Hochdorf burial, the remnants of another alcoholic mixture, one of Celtic manufacture (mead made with honey from Southern Germany) was found in the base of the cauldron. (Mohen, 105) "The residue found in the cauldron proved to be flower pollen, probably from a beverage of honey or mead."(Biel, 111)  In combination with the large vessels. smaller cups or drinking horns are also included in the burial.  The deceased is equipped to entertain in the manner deemed appropriate to his or her place within the community.  It has been noted that, "The Mediterranean custom of the funerary Banquets ...was the privilege of the Princes." (Mohen, 105)     In Celtic culture the stigma of status remains, but the privilege seems to be extended to "princesses."   In the 5th c BCE and beyond, there is evidence that women who were buried in a "princely" fashion were also equipped in the afterlife with the implements necessary to entertain, such as the Basse-Yutz Flagon.  This suggest, once again, that gender may have been subsumed by status and that biological sex was not the only measure of oneís place in the community.  This may provide us with a clue into the social structure of the Celtic culture at this time and in this area.  By the time of the Vix burial, and afterward, war is less prominent, this is noted by the fact that there are fewer weapons in the graves.  Mohen suggests that they ěprincesî may no longer be warriors and that this may explain the rise of the ěprincessî socially (Mohen, 106-107).

In the La Tène period the drinking vessels still play a role in the grave. (Frey, 127)   The inclusion of grave goods in the in the La Tène period varies according to geographical region, but many graves include weapons, chariots, gold and drinking vessels.  Because of this, these graves are still called ěprincelyî although the social structure has changed.  The same objects seem still to reflect status.  In this period, warrior graves also include, to a lesser degree, drinking vessels, and banqueting implements.  The privilege of a feast in the afterlife was an important aspect of the Celtic grave; the implements provided for it must have been necessary markers for an appropriate transition into the next life.
 

 

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